THE newly released public finance figures for Scotland are something of a mixed bag.

On the positive side, Scotland is reducing its deficit – from £14.3 billion to £12.4bn.

Scots paid more tax per head than every other part of the UK, except London, the south-east and the east of England. On average we paid £400 more in tax per head than the UK as a whole.

We received £1,200 more in spending, money which rightly includes taxation from the oil and gas industry in Scottish waters.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is right to say the figures show that Scotland is a prosperous country.

Perhaps less positively, the country’s deficit was 8.1 per cent of GDP compared with a UK deficit of 5.6 per cent. But the relative performances of the Scotland and UK economies vary ... some years the Scottish deficit is higher, and some years it is lower. So the figures released yesterday may not be cause for unrestrained celebration, but it is hard to recognise them as the disaster described by Unionist politicians, who seem determined to seize every opportunity to cast doubt over Scotland’s ability to control at least some of its own affairs.

The unionist side won the referendum – it is hard to understand why they continue to rehearse the same old arguments, particularly in the light of an unprecedented fall in their public support after the vote itself.

Having averted independence they are now turning their attention to the prospect of full fiscal autonomy, which they now seem to be predicting would be almost as big a “disaster’’ as independence.

Alistair Carmichael, Danny Alexander and Jim Murphy have obviously failed to learn the main lesson of the referendum: there is a difference between making a positive case for the union and pouring scorn on your own country’s ability to take important decisions on its own future.

And if they can’t or won't understand that difference, the General Election results might be even worse for them than the opinion polls suggest.

Best advice? Make sure you're registered to vote

THE National’s report yesterday on the confusion surrounding voter registration for the General Election prompted a quick response from the Electoral Commission.

Writing in this newspaper today, Andy O’Neill, the head of the commission in Scotland gives a categorical assurance that no-one will come off the register because of the change in the system... "even if they have yet to move to the new electoral registers’’.

That is a welcome assurance, although it remains a fact that many voters are now uncertain if they have registered to vote or if they need to supply new information.

This coming General Election is the most important for decades and offers Scotland a real chance to gain more powers to shape our future. It is essential that as many people vote as possible.

Under the present circumstances the best advice would be: check if you are registered ... and if you are not, make sure you take the necessary steps to secure your right to vote.